Every rental car is somewhere but at times, rental car companies need those cars to be somewhere else. Previous blog posts such as the Hertz $4.99 per day transfer offer to get cars from the Northeast U.S. to Florida in the fall of 2017 are emblematic of this issue of place utility. Cars are expensive and depreciate, so the rental car companies want to get the vehicles from a place where they won't be used to a place where more cars are needed. The rental car companies have come up with two different models of getting cars from one place to another -- paying professional transporters to move the cars (expensive) or setting rates so low that normal renters choose to move the car on a one-way trip. The one-way offers issued by the rental car companies are one way of incentivizing renters but TransferCar is another platform that allows owners of vehicles (whether cars, trucks, or RVs) to find willing drivers to move a car from one location to a more desirable one.
What is TransferCar?
The TransferCar service finds willing drivers to take a vehicle on a pre-determined one-way journey within a specified date range. Drivers can be as young as 18 but some vehicle owners require drivers to be 21 or 25 (most rental car companies say 25). The transfer terms vary from one vehicle to the next -- they are at the discretion of the person or organization listing the vehicle for transfer. Some vehicles include insurance, allowances for tolls, and even a partial reimbursement for fuel. The rentals usually aren't "free" -- there's a fee of $1 to $5 per day on most of these transfers.
The majority of the 159 vehicles available for one-way drives at the time of our most recent website visit were coming from Montana. In fact, there were 89 vehicles -- all cars -- that needed to be moved from Montana. And our initial suspicions were confirmed.
Available rentals tend to come in batches.
An "unnamed" rental car company in Kalispell and West Yellowstone, MT needed to get vehicles to Denver, Seattle, and Pierre (South Dakota). So why did the company elect to put listings on TransferCar at $1 instead of listing them on their own websites at $1 per day? The company ordinarily puts very strict mileage limits on their cars and doesn't provide enough included miles to make the one-way trip -- it would be inconsistent with their everyday business strategy to offer an unlimited mileage rental from their own website! Through an intermediary, the rental car company has no problem offering the same cars for $1 per day. There were also 40 compact cars that needed to travel from Birmingham, Alabama to Toronto, Ontario Canada.
Yet the website's not limited to helping rental car companies relocate traditional rental cars. On most days we searched, there were also possibilities to help with relocating RVs. For instance, we saw eight RVs available for transfer from McKinney (north of Dallas), Texas to Orlando, Florida with a $250 fuel reimbursement, unlimited generator use, and basic supplies. With the cost of fuel at that time, a driver who could nurse the RV to an achievable 11 mpg could make the trip with no out-of-pocket fuel cost and pay exactly $7 for a week's use of a Class A RV. And who could resist the Seattle to Los Angeles RV, then take Amtrak's Coast Starlight back to Seattle! Driving vehicles that cost more than my home are the type of experiences members of the AutoSlash team undertake just because we can!
If we practiced being light on the accelerator, our gas would be included on this RV.
So What's The Catch?
There are a few notable catches. Obviously, the renter through TransferCar is subject to rules and conditions of the rental and the pickup/return locations cannot be changed. That's easy for a renter to accept. Yet the renter has to remember that TransferCar's revenue comes from the rental car company. Just like any other rental, the company has some expectation that the renter will end up paying more than $1 (or $3, or $5) per day. The refined sales pitch that you encounter at traditional rental car counters? The same pitch is going to exist on a TransferCar rental.
The rental companies are reminded they can pitch add-on services. We doubt that reminder was needed ...
We love cars and we're experts in rental cars. But we just love saving money on transportation in general! That's why we write about ride-sharing offers/promotions, reviewed Turo, and even flew out to Los Angeles specifically to try out a Jucy USA campervan! The one-way specials of TransferCar can't help everyone but it's worth checking every so often! If I weren't already committed to another event, there's no doubt I would have arranged one-way airfare to Dallas and from Orlando to get access to that $7 weekly Class A RV!